Aflatoxins are a group of toxins produced by certain fungi found in crops such as maize, peanuts, cottonseed and tree nuts. The fungi responsible, Aspergillus flavus, can contaminate crops before and after harvest as well as contaminate animal products if infected feeds are given to livestock.
Consumption of these toxins in high concentrations can contribute to stunting growth in children and cause liver illness with fatal consequences. Estimates of deaths due to aflatoxin ingestion range up to 100,000 or more per year worldwide.
Around 30-40% of crops around the world are lost to insect pests thereby affecting the ability of the 500 million small-scale farmers around the world to contribute towards the goal of achieiving zero hunger and ending poverty. Reducing losses by just 1% could feed millions more people but many countries in the Developing World need support to implement biological control programmes to reduce food losses.
As part of CABI’s mission to help farmers grow more and lose less, we have been funded by USAID – via the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – to help Pakistan improve its sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) systems and therefore open up its fruit and vegetables to more high-end global markets that were previously untapped. Currently these products only contribute 13% of the country’s export but improvements to its SPS capabilities could see this number rise significantly.